Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Oy Vey -- A Daily Variety of "mincing effeminacy"

The Kid from Brooklyn, a new musical about the comedian Danny Kaye, was reviewed in Daily Variety [December 17th 2007] by Bob Verini. Verini writes: "As for Kaye's psychological makeup, tantalizing hints (a cheek touch from Laurence Olivier) that his mincing effeminacy [italics mine]was no pose go unaddressed." [For the record, in his biography of Laurence Oliver, Donald Spoto suggested that the great tragedian might have had an affair with Kaye, but while this bit of info was fascinating, it wasn't really substantiated, alas.]

As you can see from the comical pose above, Kaye -- like most comedians -- could do the mincing (but not necessarily gay) business with the best of them, although I never really thought of him as "effeminate" (not that that would make him a bad person). Certainly this doesn't mean that he, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and legions of others were all gay in real life. When Kaye wasn't -- for lack of a better term -- camping it up, he always seemed perfectly "masculine," which certainly doesn't preclude his being gay. What bothered me is the way Verini suggests that if a man is gay any "mincing" he does -- even if it's only for the camera as part of some comedy routine -- is of course the way he actually is off-screen, all gay men presumably -- according to Verini's mind-set -- being "big swishes." Verini may not have meant it that way -- --the reviewer is a complete unknown to me, I know nothing of his personal life -- but this whole gay-man-as-mincing-faggot business is so incredibly out of date and irritating, given what we now know of the expansiveness of the gay male community, that it raises my blood temperature no matter who says it or how.
Even those gay men who are effeminate rarely "mince" in the way that alleged comedians portray them, and -- possessed of their own inner strength (if for no other reason than their having to deal with gay-bashing comments on a nearly daily basis) -- they absolutely do not deserve the disrespect that seems continuously poured over them -- and by extension all gay men -- in buckets. Comedy may in part be about exaggeration, but when you've heard the same jokes over and over and over again it gets old real fast.

Some straight men sometimes see/describe gay men as camping, mincing, being "light in the loafers," floating several inches off the ground, etc. even when the gay man in question is butch. Most straight men -- especially if they're insecure -- can't deal with the fact that there are gay men who are a lot more manly than they are. They can only comfortably deal with a masculine gay man if they imagine that no matter how he acts in public, when he's home alone with his friends suddenly his wrists go limp and he walks around with a decided wiggle. Even if they don't think that, they still like to think that the man is somehow feminine on the inside. And this applies to gay-friendly straight men who should know better as much as it does to the homophobes.

So -- was Danny Kaye gay? Apparently Hollywood insiders of a certain age say that there were rumors for years. One prominent Hollywood chronicler I know labeled him "bisexual" (at least in the technical sense as he was married with children). While I often found Kaye to be a little overbearing for my taste, he was a talented man and a likable performer.

If it turns out he was gay, so much the better.

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